HR BLOG: Getting you through the longest night

We’re not blessed by the sun in this country. And at no other time does this sting quite so much as the Winter Solstice. On the 21st December, you’ll have a meagre eight hours of dim daylight to enjoy: your team should be preparing to avoid the Winter blues!

That doesn’t just mean donning a hi-vis on the commute. It’s about preparing psychologically. If you tend to see a distinct drop in productivity, or a spike in absenteeism around this time of year, it might be due to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Let’s shed some light on the issue.

SAD, or winter tiredness, is real. And it’s extremely common. It affects lots of people to varying extents, and it’s all down to hormones. You see, we need the sun for more than getting a tan. A lack of sunlight messes with sleep cycles by causing your brain to produce too much melatonin, ultimately making you and your team feel drowsy and sometimes irritable.

All this has serious implications for employers, and at the time of year where some businesses really up their game. Construction workers, drivers, and people working with heavy machinery need to have their wits about them whilst on the job, especially with limited daylight hours. Office workers spending most of the day indoors aren’t much better off. The 2pm slump is guaranteed to hit harder at this time of year. Don’t let absenteeism rise, or productivity and quality slip: There are simple changes you can make to prevent these things from happening.

Start off by opening the blinds, and simply letting as much natural light into the workspace as possible. It can work wonders!

At no other time of year is it more important to take a lunch break. Encourage your team to get away from their desks and outside at lunchtime, even if it’s for a quick wander around the block. They’re guaranteed to come back refreshed and much more focused on the afternoon ahead.

Cut the sugar. Whether it’s a driver at a petrol station or an office worker in the communal kitchen, there’s always something sugary close by. Sweet goods are a tempting pick me up, but just as with coffee, the boost is short lived. Post-Christmas there’ll be an influx of Celebrations, Heroes, Quality Street etc. If you can, offer a healthy alternative.

Perhaps everyone should smile more and light up the workplace, but if that does not work try these artificial lights which are a substitute for sunlight. In the workplace these natural light lamps can give staff the energy boost they need. If you were interested in picking one up, they’re excluded from VAT for diagnosed SAD sufferers!

Whether it’s SAD or not, your business needs to get the most from its people all year around. The HR Dept can help you to do just that.

Alison Schreiber runs The HR Dept Durham and Darlington franchise, and works with a number of businesses across PBP. For more info, visit HR Dept Durham and Darlington or call Alison on 01325 526036 or 07535 853226.